Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers, "bitter" - when will the nonsense attacks end? While there is some arguable legitimacy to the Reverend Wright controversy there is no legitimacy to either the Ayers or the "bitter" controversies. To make things worse, both the Ayers and the "bitter" controversies were launched into the media spotlights by Democrats, specifically by Hillary Clinton's campaign in the "bitter" case and by a former Clinton advisor, George Stephanopoulos, in the Ayers case.
It is not enough that the Clintons launched the attacks on a fellow Democrat however, the mainstream media has been happy to play along as well.
First let's address the "bitter" issue. What Hillary Clinton did, and what the rest of the mainstream media just went right along with, was take a small part of a long and complex answer way out of context and portray in a way that had a meaning completely opposite of what Obama was saying.
What Hillary Clinton, and following her John McCain, have accused Obama of is being "out of touch" and "elitist" because of his supposed "bitter" remarks. Now, the quote that you see going around and being repeated was a quote that was taken from a Huffington Post blog entry that contained both the full audio recording of his remarks, plus a hand typed transcript by the author of the "bitter" segment. What everyone is repeating is what the blog poster had hand written, but every single media outlet I have seen has failed to actually extend that out and put it into context, even though the audio is right there and accessible.
Here is the portion comment that has been quoted everywhere:
"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Here is the blog post that contains the full audio recording of that event:
Starting at about the 32 minute mark is where Obama starts talking on the subject. It is very clear from his answer that he in fact has a very in-depth knowledge of Pennsylvania and of small town America. Likewise, it is also clear that the theme he was working on was connecting with people who have become cynical of government, which is the whole basis of his message of hope. He was building on this idea that many voters have become cynical and bitter, which is why he has made hope the theme of his campaign.
His answer was very nuance, all of which was cut out from the quote. His answer, when you listen to the audio, displays no hint of being "elitist" whatsoever.
Ironically, there was another article on the Huffington Post from someone else who was at the event that also discusses totality of his comments. You can read that article here: I Was There: What Obama Really Said About Pennsylvania
From the article:
"Obama's response to the questioner was that there are many, many different sections in Pennsylvania comprised of a range of racial, geographic, class, and economic groupings from Appalachia to Philadelphia. So there was not one thing to say to such diverse constituencies in Pennsylvania. But having said that, Obama went on say that his campaign staff in Pennsylvania could provide the questioner (an imminent Pennsylvania volunteer) with all the talking points he needed. But Obama cautioned that such talking points were really not what should be stressed with Pennsylvania voters.
Instead he urged the volunteer to tell Pennsylvania voters he encountered that Obama's campaign is about something more than programs and talking points. It was at this point that Obama began to talk about addressing the bitter feelings that many in some rural communities in Pennsylvania have about being brushed aside in the wake of the global economy. Senator Obama appeared to theorize, perhaps improvidently given the coverage this week, that some of the people in those communities take refuge in political concerns about guns, religion and immigration. But what has not so far been reported is that those statements preceded and were joined with additional observations that black youth in urban areas are told they are no longer "relevant" in the global economy and, feeling marginalized, they engage in destructive behavior. Unlike the week's commentators who have seized upon the remarks about "bitter feelings" in some depressed communities in Pennsylvania, I gleaned a different meaning from the entire answer.
First, I noted immediately how dismissive his answer had been about "talking points" and ten point programs and how he used the question to urge the future volunteer to put forward a larger message central to his campaign. That pivot, I thought, was remarkable and unique. Rather than his seizing the opportunity to recite stump-worn talking points at that time to the audience -- as I believe Senator Clinton, Senator McCain and most other more conventional (or more disciplined) politicians at such an appearance might do -- Senator Obama took a different political course in that moment, one that symbolizes important differences about his candidacy."
So, this whole "bitter" business is literally a misrepresentation of the meaning of what he said and the views that expressed about Pennsylvanians and people in small towns. Now that is to be expected in politics, but it is certainly not to be expected to come from a member of your own party. In other words, the Clinton campaign didn't just attack Obama, they misrepresented him egregiously in the process. Its one thing for a Democrat to attack a fellow Democrat on the issues during a primary, but to smear the front running Democrat with falsehoods is really quite nasty and destructive. Ironically, in the same speech that the "bitter" remarks came from, Obama talks about the possibility of being "Swiftboated" by the Republicans in the general election, but little did he know that his remarks from that very speech were going to be used to Swiftboat him by a Democrat days later.
Now on to the "Bill Ayers connection". There is no Bill Ayers connection, and once again Hillary Clinton, followed up by the mainstream media and John McCain, has manufactured a controversy but in this case even more deceitfully.
There are several points here.
First of all, in every case that Barack Obama has been in the same room with Bill Ayers at the same time, at least as far as anyone knows, it has been due to the fact that both of them were invited to the same place by other people. Now, given that they both live in the same city and are both political figures this should be no surprise. The point is that none of this is even under the control of Barack Obama. I guess it would have been possible for Obama to refuse to be in the same room with Ayers and to have turned down invitations to events where Ayers was going to be present, but what good would that have done?
Secondly, the attempt to connect Bill Ayers comments about not regretting setting bombs with September 11th, which Hillary has repeated several times, is completely just outlandish, since his comments merely happened to have been published on September 11th, they weren't made on 9/11 and they weren't made in reference to 9/11. Hillary, John McCain, and the media, despite knowing that he didn't make those comments on 9/11 or in relation to 9/11, all called Ayers a terrorist and then followed that up immediately with the comment that on 9/11 he said that he didn't "regret setting bombs" (in the 1960s to protest the Vietnam War).
The point here is that while what Ayers did in the 1960s may rightly be viewed as horrible, what these comments do is try to associate Ayers with present day serious terrorism.
But lets look at the fact about Obama's "connections" to Ayers.
Obama served on the board of directors of a local Chicago charity that works to address issues of poverty and homelessness. Bill Ayers served on the board of that same charity. Given that Obama was a rising political figure and a community organizer working to address issues of poverty is makes sense that he would have been invited to serve with such an organization. Should he have turned this position down? Why would he have? Even if he didn't like Bill Ayers and thought he was a horrible person, why would he have turned the position down? By not serving on the board he wouldn't have been able to help the community as much and he wouldn't have been able to possibly exert influence to counteract any possible influence of Ayers. In other words, even if he thought Ayers was a "bad guy" he still would have been wise to join the board. Not joining would have accomplished nothing, and in realty just allowed Ayers to be more influential. Even if someone from the KKK were on the board he should have joined. Him serving on that board is not a relationship with Bill Ayers. Hillary knows that and John McCain knows that.
The next supposed evidence of a relationship with Bill Ayers is the fact that Obama attended a party in his honor at Bill Ayers house. This may sound kind of damning, but Obama had nothing to do with organizing this benefit and it wasn't the only such party. The party was organized by the incumbent state senator that Obama was campaigning to replace (she was leaving the state senate) Ayers was a friend of hers, not of Obama. Obama merely accepted the invitation. This was noted in an AP article on the subject:
"When Obama was organizing his first race for the state legislature, the incumbent lawmaker he hoped to replace introduced him to her supporters and urged them to back Obama. One introductory event took place at the home of Ayers and Dohrn."
- Fact check: Obama and former radical
The way that Hillary, McCain, and most of the mainstream media tell it, Obama was a friend of Ayers who decided to have a party at Ayers house, but that is not at all the case. Again, he could have turned down the invitation, but would it have been wise for a freshman political figure just getting into politics to tell his strongest supporter, a state senator, that he didn't want to attend the event she was throwing for him?
Lastly, there is the fact that Obama was a panel speaker at a few events where Ayers was also a panel speaker. Again, these are situations that arose due to the invitations of others. I've been a panel speaker with people whom I totally disagreed with before. Should he have not attended those presentations because Ayers was there? How would that have been of any benefit? Again, they were both at these types of events because they both live in the same area and both were involved with issues of addressing poverty and homelessness. What was Obama supposed to do, move to a different city or tell people that he refused to be in the same room with Ayers? It doesn't make any sense. Bill O'Reilly has attended several events that Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist, has attended. Should O'Reilly now be condemned as an associate of Dawkins, thus labeling him the "friend" of an atheist, thus ruining his conservative credentials? Again, this makes no sense, it is "gotcha" politics, and the bad thing is that a fellow Democrat is the main one pulling this nonsense against Obama and that the media is going right along for the ride. As we can see from the Pennsylvania elections, Hillary's deceptive slander has paid off for her.
Meanwhile, as Barack Obama is attacked for the most tenuous of "relationships" with people like Ayers and Rezko, John McCain's involvement in the Keating scandal is barely even mentioned in the news media at all. This is not to say that John McCain should be dragged through the mud over the Keating issue, but clearly his involvement with Charles Keating went far beyond that of Obama's ties to either Ayers or Rezko, and given that John McCain has said that the Keating investigation was worse than his time as a POW in Vietnam, I find it amazing that he is so eager to thrust such abuse onto someone else.
So far Barack Obama has not brought up the Keating issue, but if John McCain were to try and press Obama on things like Rezko or Ayers in the general election, he would certainly have to address the Keating issue once again. John McCain was not found guilty of any crime in the Keating trails, but it is certainly a fact that there was a very close and inappropriate relationship between John McCain and Charles Keating, certainly a relationship that went way beyond that of Obama and Rezko.
Keating was a corrupt land developer who became close friends with John McCain and raised hundred of thousand of dollars for him. John McCain even vacationed with Charles Keating, used Keating's private jet, and invested in Keating properties. Charles Keating was then involved in the Savings and Loan scandal of the late 1980s, and it was determined that John McCain did act inappropriately on behalf of Charles Keating prior to the break of the scandal to head off investigations of Keating's savings and loan.
More about the Keating scandal here:
Again, the point here is not to attack John McCain over this issue, but rather to show that the alleged relationships between Barack Obama and people like Ayers or Rezko are quite insignificant compared to similar types of issues of the other candidates. While neither McCain nor Clinton were found guilty of crimes in the relationship scandals that they were involved in (Clinton-Whitewater, McCain-Keating), both of them were much more heavily involved in inappropriate conduct and relationships.